Author Interview Q&A with Dr. Bob Kellemen on Counseling Under the Cross
A Word from Bob: On September 11, 2017, New Growth Press (NGP) releases my newest book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. You can download free resources and pre-order a copy now at 25% off at my RPM Ministries store here. My publisher, NGP, did an Author Interview Q&A with me about the book. Today I share Part 2 of that interview. For Part 1, visit here.
NGP Question 8: Martin Luther counseled his mother and his father. What were the issues and how did he minister to his parents?
It’s always difficult to counsel family members. Yet, Luther counseled his mother and his father with such humility, respect, graciousness, empathy, and care. In most of these vignettes with his parents, Luther was counseling them when they were near their deathbed. He respected their fears, empathized with their feelings, and tenderly reminded them of their gospel hope in Christ.
NGP Question 9: Luther faced many losses in life, including the loss of a child and the loss of his parents. In Counseling Under the Cross, you explain that Luther grieved deeply and that he gave Christians permission to grieve. How so?
Sometimes we have the false notion that if we are truly spiritual, then we won’t grieve the loss of a loved one. Luther taught that the failure to grieve was actually a sign of a lack of Christlike love. So he commended people for grieving, he gave examples of his own great grief, and most importantly, he shared scriptural examples of holy grief.
NGP Question 10: One of the most powerful messages of Counseling Under the Cross is the four-fold message Luther taught about our salvation in Christ alone. What is that four-fold message and what difference does it make for our lives and ministries today?
In Christ, the Father says to us, 1.) “Forgiven!” (Justification). 2.) “Welcome home!” (Reconciliation). 3.) “Saint!” (Regeneration). 4.) “Victor!” (Redemption).
What difference does it make? We are to preach the gospel to ourselves every day so that we understand who we are in Christ and so we then live out that newness through Christ. I say it like this in one of my tweet-size chapter summaries:
Daily behold in Christ’s gospel mirror your gracious Father saying to you: Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”
NGP Question 11: One famous statement about Luther notes that “Sanctification is the art of getting used to your justification.” You don’t believe that is accurate. What then did Luther teach about the Christian life and growth in grace?
“Sanctification is the art of applying our justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption to our daily life through faith active in love.”
It isn’t just “let go and let God.” It isn’t just understanding the “gospel indicatives” (what Christ has done). God’s Word calls us to actively apply what Christ has already done. We are to obey and live out the “gospel imperatives”—the commands to love others—through faith active in love.
NGP Question 12: If Luther was talking to pastors today, what counsel would he give them about pastoral counseling?
We think we are too busy to counsel. We think we are ill-equipped to counsel. We think we should just preach (the pulpit ministry of the Word) and not counsel (the personal ministry of the Word). Luther was busy—and he still counseled. Luther never had a course in “pastoral counseling,” but he still counseled the Word. Luther was a preacher, but he was also a pastoral counselor.
So, “Pastors, just do it! Speak gospel truth in love.”
NGP Question 13: If Luther was talking to you and me and other Christians today, what would his main message be?
He would tell us to live out Colossians 1:28. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
And, “Christ alone.”
He would tell us to live out the words of Colossians 2:8. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Luther believed in the sufficiency of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture. We have all we need for life and godliness through the living Word (Christ) and the written Word (Scriptures). Luther would model for us that God’s Word is rich, robust, and relevant for our daily lives and relationships.
NGP Question 14: You end each chapter with a tweet-size summary. So, what’s your tweet-size summary of Counseling Under the Cross?
I’d use the sub-title of the book as the foundation for that tweet. Here we go:
Richly Apply the Gospel to Each Other’s Daily Lives: “Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”